When it comes to starting a fashion brand, market research is one of the things aspiring entrepreneurs overlook the most. Many of them get excited about the idea of running a fashion based business- often thinking of the glitz and the glam that they envision from stuff seen on TV and in magazines. The reality of running a fashion based business IS a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work.
These very enthusiastic aspiring entrepreneurs often come to me with sparkle in their eyes and sketches in their hands of things they want to create. When I ask them about doing any prior market research they sort of look at me blankly. The smile wipes off their face. Their eyes go blank. Sometimes they sort of glaze over.
“Market Research?” they ask.
“Yes. You know, to see who would want to buy your designs? What stores are similar to yours? What your customer is like? That sort of stuff.” I respond.
The blank stare is immediately replaced with the sparkle in the eyes and the enthusiastic voice once again. With tons of excitement they tell me “Oh that’s easy!”
“OK. Who are your customers? Who is going to buy these designs?” I ask.
“They are mostly for me and my friends” is a common response I get.
“OK. Well, tell me about you and your friends. Where do you guys like to shop? What’s your favorite thing to do in your downtime? What magazines do you read?”
This is where I usually start getting some sort of “Well, Suzy likes to shop at Store A, but I like to shop at Store B, and Michelle likes to shop at Store C”
You can see the problem here. She’s explaining to me everything that ISN’T similar about these ladies. I’m getting no sense of who they are, what they like to do, what price points they feel comfortable purchasing at. NOTHING. BUT! She is convinced that her designs are for her and her friends.
This is usually when I start with the hard questions to get my client to see that they need to do some homework before starting their fashion based business.
“OK. So how do you know that THESE designs are the ones that will sell to your customer base?”
“Because I showed the designs to all of my friends and they all said they liked them”.
(Sigh). I hate this part. This is the part where I have to burst her bubble and watch all that excitement in her face fade away. I like the excitement. Aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about their new business often have the emotional resiliency to see though the struggles, find solutions and build their dream. I LIKE the excitement. I do. It’s part of why I do what I do.
I don’t like having to tell someone that their friends and family will not and cannot help build a thriving business. But, I feel like it is my obligation to do so. This way she gets real advice and understands the things that she needs to go through in order to really bring her dream to life. So…here we go.
I explain that her friends all seem different based on what she has explained to me. That there is obviously SOMETHING that connects them together if they all truly love her designs. If they do, that’s what she needs to hone in on so she can find other women like that to sell to.
I caution her, that as I have seen many times- her friends and family may like her designs, but won’t BUY her designs, and they are trying to be supportive because that is what we do with people we love. Either way, if she is going to have a thriving business, she needs to find out who she is going to sell to beyond her friends and family. Her friends and family will not support her business.
Let me repeat that. YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WILL NOT SUPPORT YOUR BUSINESS.
I am not talking about emotional and mental support. Nope. I’m talking dollars. It is impossible to run a successful business and count on your friends and family to spend their hard earned money to keep it alive. In terms of volume and keeping a healthy cash flow in your business you are going to need more than your friends and family to buy from you.
To have a thriving fashion based business you need to know WHO YOUR CUSTOMER is, and WHY they come to buy from you.
But Kat! I don’t know who that is?!?!?!?!
I got you.
We’re going to take a few steps from my Feasibility Workshop and what I call Online Listening to figure this out. Thank the Internet Gods for having everything online and making this accessible to you.
- Think about what existing brands are similar to yours. Which brands would your ideal customer be able to pair with your brand to create a complete outfit?
- Go on to a large fashion reseller site such as Asos.com or Amazon.com
- Instead of searching, we are going to browse. Select Men or Women.
- Then select the category your product fits into. Ex: Jeans
- Further narrow down your results by setting the price range to match the price range you set for your products.
- Now browse the products that are in the search. Find 5-7 brands that are similar in style and price range to your brand. Write these brands down somewhere, or download this spreadsheet to keep all of your information organized.
This next step is going to take you some time. Do not expect to be able to do this all at once. It will take days if not weeks to complete this next portion.
- Google the first brand and find their website.
- Look for the link on their site that lists all the stores that carry that brand. This is usually labeled Stockists, Store Locations, Retailers or something similar.
- If you can find 100 boutiques that sell brands similar to yours then you have a market that is interested in your product.
Be careful to not enter into a section of the industry that is saturated.
If you are interested in more information on things like:
- Answering the hard questions before you decide to go into business and spend money, time and resources on developing samples.
- Discovering your costing goals and your price points for retail and wholesale sales
- Calculating if there is enough of a profit margin to keep a healthy cash flow in your business
- Finding out who your competitors are
- Discovering if there is a large enough market interested and willing to buy your product
I recommend The Feasibility Workshop. It will walk you through all the steps involved in doing market research for your brand. I’ll walk you through the same process I use with my clients to determine their overall feasibility. You’ll gain confidence in your business idea and know what areas you may need to look at further before starting your fashion based business.
Wishing you the best,